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When Jackson jeweler Brian Beckham was asked to donate one of his pieces for a benefit auction, he didn’t want to grab just anything off the shelf to contribute. He pondered the theme of the event, which was the blues music genre. His final product was a pair of handmade, sapphire ombre earrings that were simple at first glance, but looked like a harmonica when turned to the side.
“It’s very personal for me,” Beckham said of his work. “I usually put a lot into it.”
And, for Beckham, his finished craft is much more than a simple accessory.
“Jewelry is a luxury item. It isn’t something everyone has to have. It won’t keep you warm at night, and it won’t feed you,” he said. “But it does represent some of the most important moments in our lives — milestones like anniversaries, marriages, graduations. Regardless of monetary value, it becomes priceless to us, and that’s the essence I tap into.”
Beckham’s mother owned a jewelry store, which got him interested at a young age. After studying gemology in California and Thailand, Beckham traveled the world, opening jewelry stores across the Caribbean and working in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kansas City and New Orleans. From there, the Carthage native decided it was time to come home to Mississippi.
His personal flair combined with a passion for one-of-a-kind, handcrafted jewelry bring customers to Beckham’s shop just off I-55 in Jackson.
It’s a small boutique, set up to have the feel of an art gallery. Showcases line the walls, and Beckham describes the place as “visually contemporary.” In his store, customers can also see the workbenches where their accessories are being made.
“We try to get rid of the whole ‘man behind the curtain’ mentality and be completely exposed,” he said. “I want people to see behind the scenes; it isn’t pretty, but it’s reality. You get to see things being built and made as it happens.
“I manufacture everything in house, but it’s not crafty in the sense that it’s homemade jewelry. It’s fine jewelry.”
His vision was for a small store, not a place that carries thousands of selections. Though he does keep stock, most customers seek out Beckham for jewelry that is designed just for them.
Beckham first meets with customers to understand their needs: Do they prefer a simple design? Do they work with their hands a lot and worry about losing stones?
After getting all his questions answered, he sketches out a design on paper, then creates a wax mold.
“Most of my clientele want something more and different, not something cookie-cutter sold in stores all over the world,” he said. “We tailor to the person, and that’s how it should be. Each piece is made for them and by them.”
Because he has the ability to mold and create custom orders, people come to Beckham with family collections missing a piece that he’s able to recreate.
“For me as a jewelry designer, everything is a challenge,” he said. “It’s a challenge every time a client comes in. They give me their materials, and I have to figure out a way to make it work.”
After working around the world, Beckham said Mississippi is home, and he couldn’t think of a better place for his business when he moved back in 2007.
“There is a need for what I do; there’s nothing like this in Jackson,” he said. “I love the South. When you spend 20 years on the road moving and being a transient person, you respect being in one place at one time. I think there’s so much growth here. We’re at a tipping point, and it’s the perfect time to be here.”
And, when he looks to the future, Beckham still sees himself creating — just on a larger scale.
“I love being a designer,” he said. “My future in Jackson is that I’d love to have several solid lines that we make and produce. I’m not trying to go global, but if you’re walking down the street, I’d like you to be able to recognize it as one of my pieces made in Jackson. That’s the legacy I’d like to leave behind.”